Milo Ventimiglia says it was “surreal” to watch the funeral of his This Is Us character, Jack Pearson, especially since he saw it through the eyes of his still-hurting TV daughter, Kate. At the end of the most recent episode “Three Sentences,” viewers were given a shadowy glimpse of the Pearson patriarch’s funeral service, which confirmed that Jack’s kids were teenagers when he died.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Milo Ventimiglia said he was a little surprised that viewers were already given that much information about the timeline of his character’s death.
“When I read it, I didn’t know how it was going to be shot,” Milo said of the funeral scene. “And I understood that it was all supposed to be cloaked in a little bit of mystery of when and how and why. I was surprised to see that they did reveal the age of the kids.”
— Dan Fogelman (@Dan_Fogelman) November 11, 2016
While Ventimiglia admitted that it was hard for him to relate to the pain of losing Jack (“Because, well, I’m Jack,” he said), the actor instead looked at the scene through the eyes of his co-stars Chrissy Metz, Hannah Zeile and Mackenzie Hancsicsak, who play his daughter Kate as an adult, teen, and a 10-year-old, respectively.
“I think the thing for me that resonated the most was just the pain of others,” Ventimiglia explained. “And understanding that at 36, Kate is still feeling the tremors of her father’s passing.”
Indeed, Jack’s funeral scene played out in a flashback as his adult daughter had an emotional breakthrough while at a weight-loss immersion camp. In the scene, Kate thought back to some of the times that her dad comforted her as a child. While we know that young Kate was definitely a daddy’s girl, Ventimiglia says his character’s relationship with his teen daughter will be explored much more in upcoming episodes.
“We see it a lot in the stuff that Mackenzie and [I] play. We’re definitely going to explore that more with Hannah,” Milo said.
“But it’s this idea that she is still hanging onto a deep, deep pain of her father’s passing, and what that does to her. How does that and how has that impacted her? So, for me I’m excited to figure out: What are those moments, father to daughter, that she’s really hanging onto and sharing and learning from or heartbroken over?”
Viewers have seen Milo’s character’s close relationship with his three kids, but he definitely has a soft spot for his little girl.
“Jack is held together by his kids and we’ve seen moments with eight-year-old Kate at the pool and now, having the moment at the birthday party where Jack tries to cheer Kate up, and it just doesn’t quite work anymore,” Ventimiglia added.
Milo’s character clearly has a special bond with his only daughter, but viewers know it will be cut short. Still, Ventimiglia said he trusted This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman’s choice to make the Pearson kids teenagers when Jack died.
“It felt like the right time,” Milo told EW.
“You’re just about to finally gain that confidence as a young adult, get out of your teens, and then all of a sudden Dad dies. …and maybe if your father was your strength, how does that cripple you to a degree where maybe you have to support your siblings a little more? …Or maybe in some cases, maybe like Kate, it holds her back…So I think it was a great idea, especially leading into more stories for the Pearsons to have Jack’s death be in that teenage era.”
While viewers have seen very little of a teenaged Kate thus far, Milo Ventimiglia has shared several big scenes with the 10-year-old Kate, played by Mackenzie Hancsicsak. In the most recent episode, the two had an adorable “strike a pose” moment as young Kate taught her dad how to Vogue after the heartbreaking realization that her best friend Sophie only came to her birthday party so she could hang out with her twin brother, Kevin.
Ventimiglia revealed that ahead of the shoot, his young co-star was afraid that she might “mess up” the scene.
“God, she was so good in that scene,” Milo said of Mackenzie. “Really great. We were in the hair and makeup trailer beforehand before the day started and she said, ‘I’m scared…What if I mess up?’ I said, ‘Oh, no, you’re not going to mess up… it’s the best part of it being a set. We want you to mess up, and then you do it over again, then you mess up and you do it over again, and you get this perfectly imperfect performance.'”
Milo said he rehearsed several passes of the scene, telling his TV daughter to pretend she was mad, then sad, then happy, then heartbroken.
“I got messages from Dan in the editing room and he’s like, ‘Where did this performance come from?'” Milo said. “And I was like, ‘She was afraid, and we made her not afraid.'”
— Mackenzie Hancsicsak (@MHancsicsak) January 24, 2017
“I want everyone that I’m in a scene with to shine and to just be the best they can ever be,” Milo added. “And I think it was such a beautiful thing for Mackenzie, and such a heartbreaking moment for Kate to have this realization … that maybe people just show up to her party to go see her brother. And how crushing that must be.”
Milo Ventimiglia doesn’t have any kids, but he has been a father figure to his young co-stars on the This Is Us set. In an interview with the New York Post, Hancsicsak said some of her favorite moments on set have been with Ventimiglia.
“One time when we were doing ‘The Pool’ episode Milo asked me to practice our lines,” the nine-year-old actress told the Post.
“He was very proud that I knew my lines. And the part where he puts the sunglasses on my head like a crown, he made that up! Mandy and Milo both like to take a lot of pictures of us kids and them, just like my mom and dad in real life like to take pictures of me. And also on the ‘Pool’ episode, after three days of filming at the pool, Milo said, ‘Hey, we haven’t gone in the pool at all,’ so we all decided to jump in. That has been my best memory so far!”
Mackenzie added that her favorite (and hardest!) scene was the one she did with Milo Ventimiglia in “The Pool” episode.
“Milo’s mom and dad were on the set that day and they watched us film that scene,” she revealed. “I liked how he made up the part with the sunglasses on my head. It was a hard scene to do because there were so many extras on the set. I had to block out everybody and just focus on my ‘dad.'”
Take a look at Milo Ventimiglia and his TV daughter in “The Pool” scene below.
[Featured Image by John Sciulli/Getty Images for InStyle]